Julia and Will Pemberton

On 18 November 2003, following more than a year-long campaign of threats and abuse against his estranged wife, Alan Pemberton arrived at his former home and killed his son, his wife and then himself.


These homicides took place despite repeated warnings from Julia to the local police that Alan Pemberton was a threat.

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, said: “Julia Pemberton’s case is one of the most tragic domestic violence cases that I have ever come across in my 28 years working with abused women and children. The deaths of Julia, Will and Alan Pemberton were unnecessary and may have been preventable.”

Frank Mullane, Julia’s brother, said: “The story is one of abject system failure. The (police) force had no domestic violence policy, neglected to undertake a risk assessment and ignored repeated and increasingly desperate pleas for help. They made basic policing errors, failed to share information between themselves, failed to supervise, had no procedures to join forces with other agencies and had a feckless firearms policy.”


What happened after their deaths?

Following the deaths of Julia and Will Pemberton, their family worked closely with Refuge to campaign for a Domestic Homicide Review to be undertaken to investigate the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

After years of lobbying, a Domestic Homicide Review – conducted in accordance with Section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 – was finally carried out for the Pemberton case in 2009.


What did the Review find?

The report found that a clear domestic violence policy was lacking from both the police and the local authority, and that calls for help were not taken seriously enough – resulting in fatally delayed responses. It found that there was a severe lack of both training and understanding amongst the agencies that could have helped to prevent the deaths of Julia and Will.

Neil Websdale, the principal advisor to the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative, said: “The Pemberton Homicide Review constitutes a landmark achievement in the field of domestic violence fatality or homicide review. It is meticulous in its approach, honest in its conclusions and forward thinking in its recommendations. As such, the review sets a gold standard in terms of its detailed appreciation of the complex issues in domestic violence cases and its pressing calls for agency accountability and interagency liaison.”